Anthony Dickinson, PhD, a leading researcher in animal learning and cognition, will take the helm of APA's Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes next month. Dickinson, who is well-known for his work showing that some animals can remember the past and plan for the future, says he'll continue the journal's tradition of publishing work in the burgeoning field of animal cognition. "Although the cognitive revolution in human psychology can be traced to the 1950s, it is only in the last decade or so that the cognitive perspective on animal behavior has really developed into a substantial research field," he notes.
Previously, journals such as JEP: ABP focused mainly on work emerging from the associative and Skinnerian perspectives—with an emphasis on animals' outward behavior. But now, researchers are experimentally demonstrating what animals think, know and remember. For example, in a study with biologist Nicola Clayton, PhD, published in Nature (Vol. 359, No. 6,699), Dickinson showed that scrub jays recall what type of food they hid and where and when they hid it. Further, they make intelligent use of this information—returning to perishable caches while they are still fresh but not after they have had time to rot.
Because animals can't fill out surveys, animal cognition researchers are devising ingenious techniques to peer inside the "black box" of animals' minds. Some of these methods are beginning to enrich human cognitive research, Dickinson says. "I'd like to receive submissions from the human cognitive psychology community that relate to procedures and theoretical developments that come out of the animal literature," Dickinson says.
In addition to bridging the human-animal gap, Dickinson hopes to publish papers that bridge the behavioral-cognitive gap. He'll also be on the lookout for studies from behavioral neuroscientists who illuminate the interactions between different behavioral and psychological processes rather than focusing on the function of particular brain structures.
"My philosophy is conservative in terms of standards but not conservative in terms of content," Dickinson says. "The journal has a very high reputation for the standard of papers it's published and makes a significant contribution to the academic vigor of the field, which is why I am pleased to take over the editorship."
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